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Florida-based utility picks Kings Mountain for $450 million plant

KINGS MOUNTAIN A fast-growing utility specializing in natural gas-driven electrical plants announced Monday that it has picked Kings Mountain for its next plant, a $450 million-plus investment that city officials called one of the biggest in their history.

Officials with NTE Energy, which bills itself as the nation’s 13th-fastest-growing energy company, said they will build a 480-megawatt plant off Interstate 85, employing as many as 250 people during construction.

Once the plant is completed in 2018, officials said, it will employ up to 30 people in salaries ranging from $60,000 to $70,000. Perhaps as importantly, Kings Mountain officials said, the plant will be a customer of the city’s water, sewer, electricity and gas services.

They said the presence of the plant, which will be the city’s largest water customer and one of its biggest taxpayers, will allow the city to hold down property and utility rates for homeowners.

“This is one of the biggest deals we’ve ever had,” said Kings Mountain city council member Rick Moore. “It’s going to be a benefit for all the citizens of the town and the county.”

The new plant is just the third in the country for Florida-based NTE, which is building others in Ohio and Texas. Company officials said the new technology is among the cleanest, most efficient power generation processes available.

It recovers exhaust heat from its gas turbine to produce steam, which is then passed through a steam turbine to generate more energy from the same fuel.

NTE CEO Seth Shortlidge said the company asked for no state or local incentives as a precondition for coming to Kings Mountain, but he said the company remains in discussions with public officials about possible assistance going forward.

The firm has been working with Kings Mountain officials on the project for more than a year.

“What you see here tonight is exactly what we want, a good public-private partnership,” he said.

N.C. Commerce Secretary Sharon Decker took a seat in the audience at the press conference, noting that city officials and the company were in charge of the announcement.

“But anytime anyone wants to invest this much money in North Carolina and not ask for any incentives, I’ve got to stop by and say thanks,” she said.

Michael Green, NTE’s vice president of development, said the project sold itself, in the company’s eyes. A major north-south natural gas pipeline and a high-power electricity transmission line both run through the property.

He said the firm sells its power to electric cooperatives, municipal-run utilities and even major power providers such as Duke Energy. The plant will be capable of powering 400,000 homes.

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